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Jean Charest is the former premier of Quebec from 2003-2012 and a partner at McCarthy Tétrault. Jean-Pierre Raffarin is the former prime minister of France from 2002-2005 and president of Leaders pour la Paix.

In this new and unusual geopolitical context, France and Canada marked the first anniversary of the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union. At a time when protectionism and retrenchment are gaining ground in both Europe and North America, CETA is a bridge of hope between our two continents. Only one year after it entered into force, CETA is already making its benefits felt.

Initially, CETA grew out of the shared will of Quebec and France to build a new trade relationship, with the rest of Canada and the EU joining in. CETA would never have come about without the unwavering support of France and its presidents: Jacques Chirac in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008 and François Hollande as of 2012.

CETA was implemented as a means of developing trade between Canada and the EU, but it is also a transatlantic bridge-building effort between Quebec and France in particular.

Canada and France share a history and a language that we both celebrate and recognize. We have fostered this relationship through cultural, economic and personal exchanges. We welcome 23,000 French students a year to Canada and we host 900 subsidiaries of French companies representing 95,000 jobs. More than 100,000 French nationals have established themselves in Canada.

In short, through CETA, France and Canada wanted to take advantage of the ties that unite us, so that we may be each other’s gateway to our respective continents. Together, we have 975 million people and more than 45 per cent of global GDP.

Since Sept. 21, 2017, 99 per cent of tariffs have been eliminated on almost all exports, benefiting major sectors of the French and Canadian economies, such as processed agricultural products, wines and spirits, cosmetics, and the pharmaceutical, textile, clothing and aeronautics industries. Labour mobility, trade in professional services and transportation, and public contracts have been liberalized and secured.

To be clear, trade agreements between friendly countries are not a pretext for deregulation as some had feared. CETA provides the best illustration of this: It promotes respect for international labour standards and calls on Canada and Europe to co-operate with a strong commitment to the principle of sustainable development. For example, European health standards remain fully applicable to Canadian products, including the ban on the use of growth hormones and other feed additives for animals, including regulations on GMOs. Nothing in the agreement weakens these European standards or the standards that Canada imposes on European products imported into Canada.

The initial results are conclusive.

First, from a commercial standpoint, Canadian investments in France rose by 27 per cent in 2017. Canadian imports of French products increased by 10 per cent – 8 per cent in the agri-food sector – during the first nine months of the agreement. French wine and cheese producers, small and medium-sized enterprises in the textile and cosmetics industries, middle-market aeronautics companies and public works and civil engineering multinationals are all winners under CETA.

The results are just as conclusive with regard to enhanced political cooperation between Europe and Canada and in particular between France and Canada. Consider, for example, the France-Canada Climate and Environment Partnership signed by Environment Ministers Catherine McKenna and Nicolas Hulot in April. The partnership aims to fulfill commitments made by both countries under the Paris Agreement and CETA.

In clear terms, CETA is an alternative, a response and a statement relative to U.S. President Donald Trump’s war on trade liberalization. Even in matters of trade, the word “war” is appalling. It is now critical to keep the process moving forward: France must quickly ratify CETA to urge the speedy completion of the ratification by other EU countries. Much more than trade, CETA offers the possibility of a better future through international relations founded on a rules based order, and on the respect of basic fundamental rights and democracy.

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